So maybe you’re about to take the plunge and delve into the scary world of learning Dutch. Chances are, you probably have a few questions to ask or you want to know what stages you’ll have to go through to get there. If any of these questions happen to be on your mind, then DutchReview is here to answer them — we’ll tell you all the things to know before learning Dutch (I know, we’re pretty ace people, right?)
|Before we get going, we’d really like to thank Bart de Pau from Learn Dutch (not a coincidence) for working with us on all these things you should know before learning to speak Dutch. Check out Learn Dutch (and their epic almost a 200K-followers Youtube channel) if you’re serious about learning Dutch!|
Here are seven things you need to know before learning Dutch:
1Is learning Dutch hard?
Some people say that learning Dutch is easy and other people insist that it’s hard. I think it all depends on several factors:
- If you’re fluent in English or German or both (this is a massive help as there are so many similarities);
- If you’re fluent in more than language (there’s research to suggest you pick up languages faster if you are);
- If you can pronounce those terrible, gutteral chhhhhhh sounds.
How learning Dutch may be hard:
- The pronunciation can be tricky as hell for some people *cough* me *cough*;
- The order of the words can be mind-boggling;
- Dutch people will always be better at speaking English than you are at Dutch, so they’ll switch.
However, some aspects of learning Dutch may be easy:
- Over 1,500 Dutch words are in the English dictionary — meaning, you already know around 1,500 Dutch words!
- Dutch words are also present in many other languages, so you may find you know even more;
- With free language sites such as Learn Dutch, you can learn without the financial burden (and within your own home!).
All in all, learning Dutch certainly isn’t easy and it’s not something you’re going to learn overnight. Just try not to get too hung up on whether you think it’s going to be hard or not. And don’t worry too much about the whole de/het thing.
2Is Dutch similar to German?
In short: yes. Dutch is very similar to German and if you speak German, then you’re sure to spot the similarities as soon as you start learning. Lots of words are the exact same in German as they are in Dutch and others only have slight differences.
However, do keep in mind that the Dutch tend to get offended when you tell them that their language is similar to German, so it’s best to keep that small fact to yourself. And also, it’s similar, but still a different language — if you speak Spanish than Italian isn’t that strange — but still not the same thing.
Note: Grammatically, Dutch is somewhat easier. So if you’re German learning the Dutch lingo, then you’re probably going to find this a relief.
3Do you need Dutch if you speak English?
In theory, no. Plenty of people get around just speaking English when living in the Netherlands. It’s also common practice to find an English-speaking job. But if you’re 100% certain you’ll be staying in the Netherlands, why aren’t you learning the language? There’s a couple of things you’ll be missing out on and I’ll explain those now:
Work — so yes, maybe you have managed to score yourself an English-speaking job, but chances are if you want to climb the ranks then Dutch is going to be necessary. If you learn Dutch it will also broaden your whole career prospects as you will qualify for so many more jobs. If you are looking for a complete career change, it will also help immensely. You can’t avoid learning it forever!
Before we continue, you can always check out these untranslatable Dutch words — they’re always worth knowing (as if the language wasn’t baffling enough).
Social — to truly fit into any society, learning the language is the thing to do. Not only is it polite (because hey, you are living in their country and all), but it’s also paramount if you want to truly fit into society. You will be able to communicate with everyone and they will be able to communicate with you. It’s a no-brainer really.
4Can you learn Dutch just by watching TV?
I’ve heard of many people who have done it this way, although admittedly it’s probably best to do this alongside your own studies or Dutch classes. You should mix it up a bit by actually watching TV in your language and have the subtitles in Dutch and then watching Dutch programmes with your language as the subtitles. Many Dutch people have learned English this way, as dubbing is not popular, giving people a chance to practice their English skills.
If you speak English, then you’re already in luck. British and American television channels are widely watched in the Netherlands, so it’s the perfect time to start reading the subtitles! Now it’s time for a Friends or Big Bang marathon.
Or try a Netflix en chillin’ next time you’re free — it’ll help. If TV isn’t what you’re after, but you like YouTube, check out Bart de Pau at Learn Dutch — you can learn the language and watch videos that are both funny and educational.
5Are there any sounds that are hard to pronounce?
Oh dear, what an understatement this is. Of course, if your language involves a lot of chhhhh sounds and rolling of the letters, then you’ll be a natural at this. If not, then you’re really going to have to practice. I’m a Brit with no language skills and no rolling letters and it took me six months just to pronounce words such as ‘Scheveningen‘ and ‘Groningen‘ properly (EDITORS NOTE: It’s still really a bit off, Emma, just like a Dutchman that tries to pronounce Plymouth).
Sounds gross but the best way to practice is to try to bring some phlegm into the back of your throat and draw it in as if you were going to spit it out and then say the word. It sounds awful, but you’ll soon get used to how to say it naturally (without sounding all weird and phlegmy).
Watch this video and get to grips with the G. Then practice. (In the confines of your own home, of course).
6Do Dutch people speak English?
Yes, very well. In fact, apart from native English speaking countries, they have the best English language skills out of everyone. The thing is, this can make it hard to learn Dutch as you’ll find that our dear Dutchies will switch to English if they hear us struggling. It cuts time and makes life easier — but persevere! Stay with Dutch if you want to practice, even if they switch to English.
The plus point for their great English skills is that it makes learning Dutch easier (in terms of finding good English material, teachers and whatnot). Just make sure not to take it for granted and give up on your Dutch.
7Is there any way I can learn Dutch for free?
Aha! You’re in luck here. Yup, there are a few ways to learn Dutch for free. This is definitely one of the things to know before you learn Dutch (cos it’s quite expensive otherwise). We actually have a whole article dedicated to this, but we’ll throw a few good points your way again.
Apps? Think Duolingo! YouTube and other free course material? Head to LearnDutch.org, Bart de Pau has a whole website dedicated to it. He has made many great videos — some informative, some just outright hilarious, so check it out if you’re looking to master Dutch for free.
If that isn’t enough for your learn-Dutch appetite than check out his Summer and Winter schools where you get to learn Dutch through a fun and intense manner; direct teaching (still does the trick). Now you can finally understand what tante Truus says to you at the circle-of-death birthday party: Lekker!
So, there you have it — seven things to know before learning Dutch. Once you’ve mastered all the weird sounds, you’ll be well on your way to spitting Dutch words out left, right and centre. Good luck.
What tips do you have when learning Dutch? Are there any other things to know before learning Dutch? Let us know in the comments!
Feature Image: Dimitri Houtteman/Pixabay
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated in December 2020 for your reading pleasure.